GROTON -- An architect's error forced administrators at Lawrence Academy back to the drawing board and before the Historic Districts Commission for a change in plans regarding an existing garage building on its campus.

The issue was one of several by the town's two major private schools taken before the HDC at a mid-April meeting.

Lawrence Academy had received permission from the HDC last year to relocated the 75-year-old Powderhouse Road garage and to replicate it at a size 10-15 percent larger than the original.

In its original application, LA officials told commission members that plans called for the creation of a new video conferencing center that would not fit in the existing building, a garage currently being used for storage.

Commissioners were assured at the time that every effort would be made to replicate the architectural style of the current building with the exception that the new structure would be larger and come to about 1,200 square feet.

As it turned out, LA attorney Robert Collins said the expansion plans called for in the new designs are too restrictive and the new structure would still not be high enough to accommodate intended uses including overhead projectors.

As a result, Collins asked that commissioners allow him to withdraw the previously approved plan so that he can reapply with a new one.

The same scenario would apply in the new application, that is, the new building would look as much as possible as the existing garage and that the old building would be moved to a different site on campus. KKing 4/18/14

Describing the Powderhouse Road area where the garage is located as a "definitive streetscape," HDC chairman Daniel Barton echoed the commission's feeling that the withdrawal and reconsideration would not be opposed.

Meanwhile, also at Powderhouse Road, the commission agreed to issue a certificate of appropriateness for plans to replace a 280-foot stretch of gravel walkway with bituminous pavement.

According to Barton, approval was granted on grounds of safety. The work constitutes proper maintenance of the walkway.

On a second front, Collins, this time representing Groton School, sought to discover if the HDC would require his client to submit a formal application for their plan to remove a 75-year-old water tower on their Farmers Row campus.

According to Collins, the 25-foot tower was built before Groton had town water but since then, has fallen into disuse.

In fact, he said, it has been nonfunctional for the past 15 years and is currently rusting away.

"It serves no purpose anymore," Collins said. "And has very little to recommend it."

Collins told commissioners that even repainting the structure would cost more than tearing it down.

Further, the attorney said it was his belief that the water tank did not come under the town's demolition bylaw, which is intended to postpone destruction of potentially historic structures to give owners time to think of other ways to deal with unwanted buildings.

Collins said that because the bylaw covered only structures that held persons or property, and water was not property, there was no need for delay.

Nevertheless, Collins told commissioners that he felt it would be appropriate to go through the review process with the HDC since the tank was located within one of the town's historic districts over which the commission has authority.

Since the commission would be involved in reviewing a demolition request anyway, commissioners agreed that Groton School should file a formal application for removal of the water tank.

Finally, commissioners voted to close a public hearing on amendments planned for the historic districts bylaw and to withdraw a warrant article for same from consideration at the upcoming spring town meeting.

According to Barton, the amendments dealt with clarifying language regarding the HDC's operations and responsibilities but not enough information has come the commission's way to help in its deliberations during the public hearing process. 

With more time needed to review the proposed amendments and to prepare for a presentation at town meeting, commissioners decided to withdraw the current article and retarget it for fall town meeting.